Friday, May 31, 2013
eBay pulls auction for man's spot in heaven
A New Jersey man who offered online bidders his spot in heaven said bidding reached $100,000 before eBay took down his proposal.
Ari Mandel, 31, who lived in an Orthodox Jewish community until he was 23 and now identifies himself as theologically atheist, said eBay removed an auction offering his "Portion in olam habaah [heaven]," after it obtained a high bid of $100,000, the New York Daily News reported Thursday.
"It was nice to fantasize," Mandel told The Jewish Forward of his near payday. "But I didn't think it was going to happen."
The auction assured bidders Mandel had steered clear of sin by performing good deeds, refusing to worship false gods and being "98 percent vegan."
The description promised Mandel would continue to live a good life to ensure the spot in heaven would remain available for the winning bidder.
Mandel described his posting as a harmless prank.
"To those of you who took this seriously, chill out. It was just a joke," he said. "Whether or not you're a believer in this sort of thing, chill out."
Mandel said he received a call from an eBay representative to inform him that intangible items cannot be auctioned on the site.
Candle ban snuffs out strictly Orthodox Aberystwyth holiday plan
More than 1,000 Orthodox Jews have been barred from their annual summer holiday in Wales because of health and safety fears over their Sabbath candles.
Aberystwyth University bosses have rented out their student village to Jewish families for a fortnight every August for the last 20 years. But they have pulled the plug this year, insisting they cannot relax their ban on naked flames.
Members of the Jewish community, mostly from Manchester and London, said they were "very disappointed and upset" at the decision.
Last year the holidaymakers were told that in future they would be allowed to stay in Pentre Jane Morgan only if they agreed not to light candles in the houses.
In response, they have found an alternative holiday destination, but are still hoping that the university will agree to a compromise so they can return next year.
The families rent up to 120 houses, each accommodating between seven and nine people.
One of the holidaymakers, Mrs Brander from London, who declined to give her first name, said: "We come to Aberystwyth for a holiday. We have stayed in Pentre Jane Morgan since it opened. It is a summer home to us, and we all love it. We are very disappointed and upset by the university's decision."
She added: "We were told about this condition as we left last year, but at the time, we did not think it a threat to our visit. But, ultimately, there was no real decision for us — our religion requires lighting of candles.
"There was a small fire last year, but it was not considered serious. And we have holders to make each candle safer. We offered to discuss it with the fire brigade, but the university was not interested."
The majority of the visiting Jews come from north London, but others come from as far afield as Israel and New York.
The families' absence will affect a number of traders, according to Chris McKenzie-Grieve, president of the town's Chamber of Commerce,
He said: "Many of the visitors shop in the town. And it will surely have a great effect on the university's income."
A spokesman for Aberystwyth University insisted that candles and naked flames were forbidden in all university residences. He said: "This is clearly set out in the terms and conditions which visiting groups are required to sign and abide by during their stay.
"Unfortunately, last year there was more than one incident involving lit candles with this visiting group.
The spokesman added that the university had been asked to relax the rules or to accept covered flames, but that it had rejected the suggestion.
"In reaching the decision not to allow candles to be lit in rooms, we have taken legal advice, consulted with the Health and Safety Executive and the Fire Service, and our own risk assessment.
"The decision has been taken in the interest of the safety of those staying in university accommodation, and to protect our property.
"At all times, the university has stated that it would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions."
Tragedy struck the families last year when Berish Englander, a 47-year-old rabbi and father of 11 children, drowned in the sea off Aberystwyth's promenade.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Hasidic Supermarkets and the Virtues of Insularity
New York has more foreign-born residents than any other city in the world: more than L.A. or Hong Kong, and two-and-a-half times as many as London. But in this latest episode of Micropolis, we consider what's lost when people of different cultures and belief systems try to co-exist. In other words, what's the downside of diversity?
To find out, we journey to the Hasidic supermarkets in the overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood of Boro Park, Brooklyn, where a remarkable support system is in place. Consider it a honor system.
"Most of the people who check out do not have any money on them," said Yosef Rapaport, a Hasidic journalist who lives in Boro Park. "They don't need to. If you see a large wagon filled with stuff, it's usually regular customers. They usually have an account. And when they have an account, it's called 'aufschraben.' In Yiddish. It means 'write it up.' Just write it up on my account. And once a week or once a month, the breadwinner, usually the husband, comes here, or if he's late, he'll get a call -- 'Pay up your account.'"
The system, which especially benefits poor members of the community, is dependent on strong social ties, which in turn are dependent on Orthodox and Hasidic Jews living close to each other, rather than dispersed through the larger society. If members of the community were fully integrated into society, this wouldn't work.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
CityBike bikeshare program in NYC
Probe Revived in Killing at Jewish School
Almost 27 years have passed since Chaim Weiss, a 15-year-old rabbinical student, was found stabbed to death in his dormitory room at an Orthodox Jewish high school on Long Island.
Now, Nassau County Police are again appealing to the Orthodox Jewish community for any clues in a mystery whose solution has eluded authorities since the boy's death on Halloween night in 1986.
"There's someone out there that has a secret that can let us know, or give us a piece of what's known out there," said Det. Lt. John Azzata, the commander of the Nassau police's homicide squad.
On Tuesday, Nassau police increased the reward for information on the case to $25,000 from $5,000.
The boy's father also urged former students, teachers and staff of the Mesivta of Long Beach Torah High School to come forward with any information they had been keeping secret.
"It has been over 26 years since our son was murdered," Anton Weiss said at a news conference. "His friends, schoolmates and classmates by now are married, are parents on their own."
But police acknowledged their probe may have to overcome a reluctance by some members of the Orthodox Jewish community to cooperate because they feel they must adhere to a high standard of proof under Jewish law before leveling any accusation of wrongdoing.
"We are sensitive to and respect that belief," said Nassau's chief of detectives, John R. Capece. "However, a homicide has occurred and we need any information that can help us solve this case and bring justice and peace to the Weiss family."
At a news conference Tuesday, police said they had reopened the Weiss murder as part of a regular review of unsolved crimes.
Rabbi Ozer Glickman, who teaches at Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, said: "Jewish law has a very high standard of proof," but said that secular law trumps religious law in such matters.
"That would be equivalent of judging by Shariah law today, and we don't live under Shariah law and we don't live under Talmudic law," he said.
Police also may have to contend with the Orthodox Jewish community's historical distrust of secular authorities, said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
"We lived in many countries where there was persecution of the Jewish people," he said. "And the idea of handing someone over to the authorities was something that was very frowned upon, because they wouldn't get a fair trial, they wouldn't get treated appropriately."
But the rabbi urged members of his faith to come forward with any information about the Weiss case. "We live in a wonderful country where the rule of law is the operative principle," he said.
Rabbi Glickman said that in ancient times, Jewish law required a minimum of two witnesses in order to level an accusation, but in modern times, Jewish law holds that criminal cases are to be addressed by secular authorities.
Police said the killer left clues indicating he or she was versed in Orthodox Jewish tradition.
Authorities said they believe a window left open in the dorm room was a sign the killer knew that some Orthodox Jews believe in clearing a path for the soul to escape the room.
Police said, however, that the killer could have simply studied the traditions in an effort to fool investigators. "I'm not going to just narrow the investigation to inside that yeshiva," Lt. Azzata said.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Yiddish in court evidence
A judge of the NSW Supreme Court has rejected a ruling by the Sydney Beth Din that ordered Benjamin Amzalak to pay an Israeli businessman more than $300,000 for the apparent sale of shares in a company.
In an 80-page ruling on Monday, Justice Monika Schmidt ruled in favour of Amzalak, a director of Raffles Capital Ltd, and ordered costs be made in his favour.
In 2010 Amzalak was ordered by the Beth Din Jewish to pay more than $300,000 for the sale of shares to Israeli Shlomo Thaler.
But he refused to adhere to the order and did not make the payments.
As a result, the Jewish court issued a siruv against Amzalak, effectively excommunicating him from the community. "One should expel his children from school and his wife from synagogue," the excommunication order stated.
But Amzalak complained the Jewish judges were biased.
Judge Schmidt agreed, concluding that the "arbitration was not conducted impartially."
She said "it cannot be doubted" that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kaminetsky, one of the dayanim, was "partial to Thaler and acted in pursuit of that partiality at the Beth Din".
Her withering judgment included a transcript of a private conversation in Yiddish among the rabbinic judges, during which Sydney's Rabbi Yoram Ulman was recorded saying: "I am already persuaded [but] so that we do not give the appearance of impropriety let us give him [Amzalak] some time to answer."
Monday, May 27, 2013
CityBike bikeshare program launches in NYC today
Rabbi Charged With Criminal Sexual Assault Of Teen
A rabbi from West Rogers Park was arrested Saturday in the alleged sexual molestation of a teenage boy in 2006 — even though prosecutors say authorities were told at the time, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Larry L. Dudovitz, 45, of the 6400 block of North Albany, was charged with one count of criminal sexual assault, prosecutors said. Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil shot down a request that he be held without bail and ordered him held in lieu of $100,000. She also grilled a prosecutor about the six-year delay.
“Now it’s 2013 and we’re charging him?” Kuriakos Ciesil said.
A prosecutor said the family of the victim — who was 15 at the time — was originally unsure about whether they wanted to proceed criminally.
Dudovitz is accused of trying to assault the victim while the boy was sleeping in his home in October 2006, court records show.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Shlissen a Shidduch in Satmar Williamsburg
Orthodox Jewish Surfer Breaking Stereotypes
The surfer stereotype is as well-worn as an article that begins with the sentence, “The (insert noun) stereotype is as well-worn as (insert noun).” The truth is that not all surfers throw up a shaka (don’t ever shake the shaka to a Hawaiian), listen to Sublime, or live in flip-flops. Take it from me, a surfer who has a dislike of all three. However, when one compares my deviation from the “norm”, I’m pretty much the stereotype incarnate when I stand next to Orthodox Jewish surfer Meir.
Surfer and writer Gai Shtienberg followed Meir for six months, documenting what it means to be a righteous member of the Jewish faith and a righteous member of the lineup. What was clear to Shtienberg, and anyone else that read his piece on The Inertia was that it’s not all that difficult to have a deep, if strict, faith while at the same time carving overhead faces at sunset. It’s startlingly easy for us to think that people of the Orthodox Jewish faith would have a desire to throw on a wetsuit and paddle out. Unfairly, we cloister them as much as they seem to cloister themselves. The truth is, if people love it they’ll do it no matter what potential barriers they may come in contact with, both socially and religiously.
As long as the sea and the waves fascinate me so much, I will keep on surfing…together with studying the bible.”
Now living in Jerusalem with a wife and six adopted children, Meir is still finding time to get a session or two in per week. While the waves may not break as consistently in Jerusalem as they do in the Philippines (where Meir went for his greatest surfing excursion), Meir is living proof that you don’t have to give up your passions just because you have other responsibilities. If my article a few weeks ago about how to get off your butt to start surfing didn’t convince you, well then allow Meir’s story to get you shredding.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Orthodox Jewish NYPD captain arrested in alleged wife attack
An NYPD captain was arrested early today after he repeatedly slammed a door on his wife’s arm after a fight over her son walking the family dog, sources said.
Daniel Sosnowik got into an argument with his wife, 52, about 11 p.m. at their Marine Park residence over their 12-year-old boy taking out the dog late in the evening, sources said.
The victim said it was too late for him to walk the dog, and after squabbling, he told her to get out of the room, sources added.
He began shouting at her in front of their child, and pushed her between the doorway and wall, according to a Criminal Court complaint.
He then repeatedly kept shutting the door on her arm, the complaint states.
He was arrested at 5:30 a.m., and charged with two counts of assault, as well as menacing and harassment.
Sosnowik was released this afternoon without bail being set, and an order of protection was issued for his wife and child.
Sources say the captain joined the NYPD in 1984, and works at the Police Academy.
He develops training curriculum for the police department, and is the commanding officer of NYPD Leadership Training, according to his LinkedIn page.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Hand puppet’s Holocaust joke on TV riles Chilean Jews
A Holocaust joke made on national television by comedian Elias Escobedo while voicing a hand puppet has the Jewish community of Chile considering a lawsuit.
Jewish leaders on Wednesday said they were considering the action against Escobedo for saying that "Jews burned better than wood" through the voice of his puppet, Murdock the Lizard. The leaders are expected to take part in a parliamentary meeting on the slur.
"It lacks humor, there is no reason to laugh and he has injured people's dignity," said Gabriel Zaliasnik, the former president of the Chilean Jewish community.
Escobedo's comment was made on the comedy show "Hazme Reir," or "Funny People," which was broadcast Monday by Chilevision. The national television authority received hundreds of complaints after its airing.
"We profoundly regret the words uttered by [Escobedo] on Monday, May 20, in his humorous routine," a spokesperson for Chilevision said, according to local media. "Never in the station's 52 years has it been in our interest to foment acts of racism or discrimination. We hope our apologies will be accepted."
Thursday, May 23, 2013
CityBike black hole in black hat Williamsburg
The city has carved out a big hole in its controversial bike-sharing program, ensuring that a bike-hating section of Hasidic Williamsburg doesn't have to participate.
CitiBike launches Monday with dozens of rental kiosks dotting the landscape throughout the gentrified sections of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Clinton Hill — but nary a single location in the part of South Williamsburg dominated by Hasidic Jews, who have opposed at every turn the Bloomberg Administration's efforts to increase cycling.
"They put the racks where they are going to be used," said Community Board 1 member Simon Weiser, who hashed out kiosk locations with the Department of Transportation. "Look at the Hasidic community. No one rides a bike here."
It's not just low ridership that created the so-called "black hat black hole" in the bike share plan, but outright hostility to cyclists.
Hasidic community spokesman Isaac Abraham warned of "civil disobedience" if the kiosks are ever placed too close to where the Satmar Hasidim live.
"We will put baby carriages there," Abraham said. "We will make a baby carriage lane."
Satmars shopping recently on Lee Ave. chided CitiBike racks as threat.
"The bike racks are dangerous for pedestrians and children," said Yoeli Klein, owner of ice cream shop Chocolate Wise.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The bride who can never show her face: 19-year-old marrying into one of world's most important Jewish families weds in front of 25,000 guests but must stay veiled
Weddings are always a big occasion, but with a guest-list of more than 25,000, this traditional Jewish ceremony dwarfs even the most lavish of nuptials.
Jewish well-wishers from around the world attended the Ultra Orthodox Jewish wedding to witness the marriage of the grandson of the leader of the Hasidic dynasty Belz Rebbe yesterday.
Steeped in tradition, these amazing images show the ceremony of 18-year-old Shalom Rokeach and his 19-year-old bride Hannah Batya Penet in Jerusalem, Israel.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Holy Chic! Women dish on how they keep their makeup going through the Sabbath
When Maddy Borch complained to her older sister about her makeup peeling off prematurely during Shabbat, her sister was ready with an unusual beauty tip: "Spray hairspray all over your face, to set the makeup."
Instead of laughing it off, Borch complied.
"I've been doing it for the past year — it really works. My makeup can stay on for three days!" says the 24-year-old special-education teacher from Flatbush, who buys high-end Kenra spray on eBay for $25. "I spray each eye once, and cheeks once. If I use a cheaper one, like White Rain, the makeup doesn't stay on as well."
As a result, many Orthodox women employ beauty secrets that can be shocking — from using a non-cosmetic Sharpie pen as eyeliner to slurping soup through a straw so lipstick remains undisturbed.Many women are known to go to great lengths for their beauty regimen, but beauty junkies in the Orthodox faith have an additional hurdle: Religious law forbids any kind of work — this includes retouching makeup or styling hair — for 24 to 48 hours on Jewish holidays and from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Long-lasting cosmetics are also prized, but their results aren't always as advertised. Earlier this month, an upstate Orthodox woman sued makeup giant Lancôme on the grounds that its Teint Idole Ultra 24H foundation, which promises "24-hour wear for divine, lasting perfection," "faded significantly" overnight.
While the lawsuit seemed a little "extreme and over-the-top" to Sharon Langert, the busy mom of five can also relate.
"I can't judge her. If someone has bad skin and they depend on [the product] and it doesn't last, then it affects their self-esteem," says Langert, 44, who is Orthodox and the founder of fashion-isha.com, a style site for the modest Jewish woman.
A cosmetics hound who buys her MAC liquid eyeliner two at a time, Langert refuses to leave the house without makeup — as do many of her friends — and she knows first-hand the struggles caused by Shabbat.
"I know some women who sip their soup with a straw, so it won't ruin their makeup," says Langert. "Some women tell their husbands not to touch them on Friday night!"
Mimi Hecht, 27, a kosher style blogger at Ladymama.org from Crown Heights, admits that she once resorted to using a non-cosmetic Sharpie as eyeliner to get her through a two-day holiday.
"I've done it once, and then couldn't bring myself to do it again," she confesses. "But it did the trick!"
The married mom of two says she's long battled "the challenge of not being able to apply makeup for Shabbat and extended holidays."
"When I was single, I would literally use like a whole pound of gel and mousse in my hair to make it last for Shabbat," recalls Hecht. "But you've got to do what you've got to do."
Hecht's hair woes have nothing on Ruti Horn, who recalls one, um, unorthodox beauty trick passed onto her from her mother.
"When I was little, my mother would tell me to sleep with my hair in a sock, so that it stays and I wouldn't have to worry about touching it up with an iron the next day," says the 20-year old accessories designer from Midwood.
Many Orthodox women say one of their biggest challenges is achieving lipstick that lasts.
"I would layer on some crazy [long-lasting] Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick and not eat anything with oil that can take it off," says Amy Goodman Gross, 27, of Elizabeth, NJ.
And then there are those who go heavy on the makeup offensive: "Apply 'drag queen' foundation before Shabbat. That stuff doesn't move!" swears Estee Gottlieb, 23, from Crown Heights. "Sleep on your back, and you're good to go! I wear MAC; it's heavy, like paint, and it stays on all day!"
According to Orthodox beauty experts, the key to long-lasting makeup — minus the clown face — is to layer. Kosher cosmetologist Elana Barkats, 27, of the Upper East Side, recommends using a primer, followed by foundation and powder to set.
She also dabs foundation on her lips before applying lipstick, to help it stay in place. And she recommends avoiding the sun, which will melt the makeup off any woman's face.
She says women outside the faith could learn a thing or two from her advice.
"I think our knowledge would benefit a lot of people; they want to do it and be done with it, and not have to reapply," says Barkats.
But even Orthodox women who go to extreme lengths for their beauty regime try to maintain perspective.
Says Langert: "I personally love makeup, but if you're an Orthodox woman in an Orthodox community, you kind of accept that on Saturday, you won't look the same as during the week."
Charges Sought After Swastika Carved Into Locker
Police say they're seeking malicious destruction of property charges against three Michigan high school students after a Jewish classmate found a swastika carved into her locker.
School administrators, the girl's family and police agreed the best way to handle the incident was for her three classmates to be charged with the misdemeanor, East Lansing Police Lt. Scott Wriggelsworth told the Lansing State Journal.
The Ingham County Prosecutor's Office is expected to make a determination about what charges might be brought.
"We'll charge what we feel is appropriate, and we are not bound by what other people think," Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said.
Wriggelsworth said an investigation began after the swastika was reportedly carved in late April. Another student's locker at East Lansing High School also was damaged.
Superintendent Dave Chapin said "appropriate disciplinary actions" have been taken against the three students, but he didn't elaborate. He said the district considers it an isolated incident.
"In this case, the families came together," Chapin said. "And to the best of my knowledge, as I was not present, they worked through a reasonable solution and that's better left in the hands of the East Lansing Police Department."
Monday, May 20, 2013
Women Of The Wall Leader Targeted By Vandals, Women's Prayer Group Angers Ultra-Orthodox
Israeli police say vandals have spray-panted slogans on the home of one of the leaders of a liberal Jewish women's group that has angered ultra-Orthodox communities over its demands for equality of worship.
Israeli TV footage showed black writing on the hallway and door of the Jerusalem home. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Monday police were investigating.
The group, known as "Women of the Wall," convenes monthly prayer services at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, wearing prayer shawls and performing rituals that ultra-Orthodox Jews believe only men are allowed to do.
Israeli officials initially opposed the group but have recently backed its right to worship. Earlier this month, thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters tried to prevent their prayer service.
Officials are attempting to find a compromise.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Orthodox Jewish prisoner's lawsuit for kosher food reinstated
The lawsuit of a Florida Orthodox Jewish prison inmate to get kosher food that had been dismissed has now been reinstated, court records showed.
The Eleventh Circuit appellate court last week put Bruce Rich, who has been serving a life sentence since a Miami-Dade County jury found him guilty in 1999 of shooting to death his parents and who filed suit in 2010 alleging the denial of a kosher diet violated his federal rights, a step closer to getting kosher food for himself and hundreds of Florida inmates who likewise require kosher food, the Miami Herald reported Saturday.
The U.S. Department of Justice also filed suit in Miami federal court last year against the Union Correctional Institution in North Florida for the same violation.
When a federal district court last year dismissed the suit, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an appeal on Rich's behalf and got the case returned to the trial court level, the Herald reported.
Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund said the denial of kosher food forces Rich to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition."
Eighteen organizations filed 18 organizations -- including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Committee, the Miami Beach-based Aleph Institute, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Hindu American Foundation -- filed five friend-of-the-court briefs in an attempt to have Florida join the 35 states that provide kosher meals to inmates who say they require them, the newspaper reported.
Florida's current policy on kosher food for prisoners is "in my opinion, embarrassing, since Florida has the second or third largest Jewish population in the country and is supposedly respectful of religious things,'' said Rabbi Menachem M. Katz, head of a prison mission for the Aleph Institute, a Lubavich Chabad social-services group in Bal Harbour.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Orthodox group gets police OT bill for stadium Internet rally
The town will bill an ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregation $7,500 to cover the costs of police protection at the baseball stadium rally on the potential dangers of the Internet to the religious community.
The officers worked 92 hours of overtime during the May 9 event, which drew about 5,300 ultra-Orthodox Jews to Provident Bank Park, Police Chief Peter Brower said Friday.
Brower said the department sent paperwork to town officials. “We notified the town, and the finance people will make sure whoever rented the stadium gets the bill,” he said.
Congregation Khal Torath Chaim in Kaser organized the rally and paid Ramapo $5,700 for use of the stadium, the home of the independent-league Rockland Boulders baseball team.
The congregation was responsible for security inside the stadium, cleanup and staffing for parking, Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Antosca said. She and Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said if town police were needed, then the congregation would pay the costs.
The volunteer group Chaverim of Monsey maintained order inside the stadium as speakers warned thousands about the potential dangers on the Internet. The Viznitz rebbe — Mordachai Hager of Kaser — was one of the keynote speakers, members of the religious community said on Twitter.
The leaders of various Hasidic communities don’t want their followers exposed to sex, pornography and modern relationships on the Internet, as well as news and other information about the outside world. The Internet threatens rigid rabbinical control by opening up a new world for Hasidic youths, experts on the community have said.
While many Hasidic leaders prohibit Internet use, some of the communities have been given millions in federal dollars to install hardware for Web access in their schools. One such school is in New Square.
The organizers used Twitter to announce and publicize the event. Tickets were sold in local synagogues.
The event followed rallies last year — including a gathering of an estimated 60,000 people at Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens — that warned of the Internet’s dangers to members of the Hasidic Jewish world. Others there promoted some uses of the Internet as positive.
The Ramapo rally went off without any problems, Brower said. “This was probably the smoothest event we’ve managed since the stadium has been opened,” he said.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Measles 'outbreak' hits two Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn
Measles is practically the 11th plaguing in two Jewish enclaves of Brooklyn right now.
Health officials have reported 30 cases of the Victorian-era scourge — with 26 in Borough Park and another four in the Hasidic quarter of Williamsburg.
And even though the disease has been practically eradicated, it can still be ruinous to people who decline the vaccination.
"There have been two hospitalizations, a miscarriage and a case of pneumonia as a result of this outbreak," a Health Department spokeswoman said. "All cases involved adults or children who were not vaccinated due to refusal or delays in vaccination."
Some parents, including many religious Jews, shun getting the vaccine, which prevents mumps, measles, and rubella, out of fear it causes autism, said Dr. Yu Shia Lin of Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park.
"We have to tell them it is a very contagious disease and that people can die," Lin said.
The outbreak stemmed from a visitor from England who showed up in Brooklyn with the virus, which causes red splotches, fever and aches.
The disease spreads quickly in the Orthodox Jewish community, where family sizes are extremely large and many parents decline vaccinations for their children.
"One person gets it and the whole family can get the disease," Lin warned.
Measles and mumps, like the common cold, is an airborne virus making it easy to catch. It plagued Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In 2008, 30 cases were counted in the city. Followed by 18 cases in 2009, eight cases in 2010, 25 cases in 2011, and five cases in 2012, the Health Department said.
And mumps - linked to a child from Britain - hit dozens of families throughout Borough Park in 2009 as well.
Hasidic parents, out celebrating the holiday of Torah commemoration time of Shavout, said they were unaware that there was an outbreak.
"I am shocked to hear this," said Moshe Fried.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
No solution to Hasidic library drama - Supreme Commercial Court
There is simply no solution to the legal disputes involving the Schneerson Library, Chairman of Russia's Supreme Commercial Court Anton Ivanov said Thursday at a roundtable meeting at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum (SPILF).
Ivanov said President Vladimir Putin previously announced that the Schneerson Library collection would never be allowed to leave Russia.
Last March, Mikhail Shvydkoi, the presidential envoy on international cultural cooperation, said the library claimed by American Hasidic Jews would be handed over to Russia's own Hasidic Jewish community.
Having been registered at the Russian State Library, the books will be stored at the Jewish Museum and the Tolerance Center.
Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson was forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1927. He took his collection with him to Latvia and Poland, where he left the books after Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany. The collection was taken to Germany and confiscated by the Red Army in 1945. Schneerson died in 1950 without leaving instructions regarding the collection.
On Jan. 16, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Russia to pay fines of $50,000 per day until it returns the books and manuscripts to America's Hasidic community.
Russia's Foreign Ministry described the ruling as unlawful provocation, and asked Russia's Culture Ministry and the State Library to fine the US Congressional Library for failing to return seven of Schneerson's books that were loaned to Washington in 1994.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Lakewood yeshiva teacher pleads guilty to sex assault
The boy who accused his former camp counselor of sexual abuse wasn't in court Monday when the onetime Yeshiva schoolteacher admitted the offenses.
He had already returned home to Michigan, where his family moved after they were shunned by some in their Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood for going to secular authorities with the allegations.
But some spectators in the courtroom where Yosef Kolko pleaded guilty to various sexual assault charges said the admissions represented a victory not only for the boy, but for others in the Orthodox community who suffered from past abuse that has gone unpunished.
"I'm here for the victim, to show the victim that he did good and that he did nothing wrong," said Isaac Weinreb, 49, of Passaic.
Weinreb, who described himself as a victim's advocate, attended Kolko's trial, which began last week and ended Monday with a guilty plea to all of the charges against him. Weinreb said he was sexually abused from age 11 to 14 by someone at an Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn that he had attended. His alleged abuser fled the country and was never brought to justice for his acts, Weinreb said. So, Weinreb said he felt particularly glad for Kolko's victim.
"I feel good that the person who's responsible will get punished for his crime, more so for the victim, so he knows he isn't wrong," Weinreb said.
"What we did today was groundbreaking," said Laura Pierro, senior assistant Ocean County prosecutor. "The Orthodox community had never been involved to this extent in a prosecution of this nature (in Ocean County).
"Lakewood's community is a focal point for the Orthodox, so to say that it's watershed here is almost the same as saying it's watershed nationwide," Pierro said of the case, which highlighted the Orthodox community's longstanding tradition to handle such matters among themselves rather than going to secular authorities.
During the trial, the victim's father testified that he first brought the allegations to a group of rabbis, but finally went to secular authorities months later when he learned the defendant was still working with children. Amid backlash from the community, the father, once a respected rabbi in Lakewood, lost his job, and the family moved away.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Murder Mystery Novel to Be Released by Young Hasidic Female Author
Imagine that four complete strangers witness a murder, yet each is convinced that he is the only one who saw exactly what happened. Each witness's history and life experiences skew the way in which he views that day's events. The police must now piece together four different versions of the same event in order to determine who committed the murder and why.
This is the plot of Leigh Hershkovich's novel, "Shattered Illusions." Sam, the proprietor of a local cafe is shot dead in the street in the middle of the night. The traumas of each witness, whether physical, psychological or emotional, deeply affect their perceptions of life, coloring the way they see and interpret everything. The reader is taken on a journey through each character's past, in order to fully understand how they developed their deeply-rooted belief systems, and how they affected the witnesses' perceptions and reactions to the murder.
One of the witnesses describes how the murder unfolded and his instinctive reaction to it:
"The scene seemed to take hours, not seconds. Finally, the weapon discharged, and everything sped up. Sam was on the floor, Sarah kneeling beside him, the killer gone, their screams piercing the night. I ducked down, covering my eyes, trying to erase what they had just seen.
"I am no less a murderer than the man who pulled the trigger that night. My selfishness and desire to stay alive caused the life of a young man to be lost. He had so much to live for, such a young man with such brave ambitions."
As the story progresses, it becomes clear to the reader why this witness blames himself for an act he did not commit nor could have prevented.
Although this genre-bending novel is categorized as a mystery, it contains a heavy dose of psychological fiction as well. Each individual tries to understand and come to terms with the role they played in their experiences, attempts to make amends with the people they hurt in the process, and tries to change their lives for the better. Each step brings us closer to revealing Sam's murderer and the motivation behind the crime.
Leigh Hershkovich stands out as a murder mystery novelist. She began writing her novel at the age of 17 and completed it at the age of 20. Raised in a family where she was surrounded by mental health professionals, she was inspired to write about dramas rich in emotional and psychological angles. A Hasidic Jew herself, Hershkovich included a character from an Orthodox Jewish home.
Hershkovich is currently working on her next work of fiction and is planning to attend university.
"Shattered Illusions" is due out the week of May 23rd, 2013, and will be available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Peddling pigeon-blood wart ‘cure’
Eye of newt, toe of frog — and blood of pigeon?
A recent ad in the Brooklyn-based, Yiddish-language Di Tzeitung newspaper boasts a use for the city’s most ubiquitous bird as a cure for warts.
The ad recommends that the bird blood be poured onto the offensive skin growth, left for an hour and then washed off. In two or three weeks, “with God’s help, there is no memory thereof.”
The woman who placed the ad told The Post her daughter had a wart on her hand that disappeared after the treatment.
“I did this to help people,” she said. “You go to the market, you buy a pigeon, and the blood goes on the wart. That’s it.”
The woman said she has no connection to the Wallabout Street poultry market in Brooklyn that the ad plugs and only went there because no one in her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community would perform the treatment on her daughter.
One caveat, she said — the cure only works on Jews: “Gentiles are not capable of taking this.”
The ad ruffled the feathers of some in the Orthodox community, who said that it would likely be an object of ridicule. “This isn’t for every Tom, Dick or Harry,” said one area rabbi. “It’s like a talisman — something that helps you, but you don’t know why.”
And pigeon advocates were appalled, too.
“It’s meshuggeneh,” said Anna Dove, who runs the People for the Preservation of Pigeons Facebook page.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Chabad to dedicate its new center
About 28 years ago, Rabbi Chaim Block left New York City to spread Jewish awareness across South Texas and establish an Orthodox congregation.
He started inside his two-room condo, along with his wife and then-infant daughter.
“Usually, a congregation is looking for a rabbi. I was a rabbi looking for a congregation,” he said. “There was no playbook. No infrastructure. No previous organization.”
On Sunday, Block and the local Chabad Lubavitch community will celebrate the grand opening of a new, 12,500-square-foot synagogue and community center. Called the Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning, it is the new, official name for the local community, which has about 85 families.
The new structure, six years in the making, cost $2.5 million and underscores the advances made since Block's arrival. And it coincides with the unveiling of a new logo — a tree of life — to replace a menorah.
The community's former sanctuary had only 1,000 square feet and was a former four-car garage. The new facility's dedication Sunday will be attended by local and national dignitaries, from Chabad's chaiman Rabbi Yehudah Krinsky to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Block, 52, gradually grew the congregation to have an active presence in the local Jewish and non-Jewish community.
Today, he has nine children and heads up a staff of about 15, including two other rabbis and their wives.
Chabad started a “matzo bakery” to show how the Passover bread is made. In pre-digital days, it operated a “dial a Jewish story” program, in which a narrator recorded a Jewish story.
Later, it started a day camp and preschool, and in 1987, it purchased its current campus, a 4-acre property on Blanco Road near West Bitters Road in North San Antonio. There, Block lived in a house on a hill, which was razed for parking. “I see our mandate and success not so much in how many permanent members we have, but in how much we've accomplished in the community at large,” said Block. “Even if it's a class or program or preschool, or if they don't consider themselves dues-paying members, so to speak.”
In San Antonio, Chabad organizes “Chanukah on the River” with boat rides, entertainment at the Arneson River Theater and ceremonial lighting of a candelabrum by local officials.
Chabad's global headquarters are in Brooklyn. It reports having 4,000 full-time families in more than 3,300 institutions worldwide.
A Hasidic movement of Orthodox Judaism, it stands out for its vibrant emphasis on outreach programs and civic engagement. With a new facility in San Antonio, Block foresees enhancing its reach and visibility.
Special touches went into the new building's design. The outside fence has 12 brick posts with custom stones for each of the 12 tribes of Israel and their biblical symbol.
The entrance is larger and includes a mechanical gate for observant members who arrive by foot to Sabbath services instead of driving.
In the center is a kosher kitchen, offices, classrooms and a social hall. The mikvah, a ritual pool, has male and female entrances.
Inside the sanctuary is an ornate, hand-crafted ark, the featured housing for the Torah scrolls, Moses' five books hand-scribed on parchment and the focal point of Sabbath services. On the outside of the ark is a “tree of life” carved into the wood. Above it is a scene of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Women's prayer at Western Wall sparks protest
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews flooded into the Old City's Western Wall Plaza early Friday in a boisterous and sometimes violent protest against a group of female activists exercising a newly court-affirmed right to pray at the holy site in a similar fashion as men do.
It was a rare scene of chaos, protest and sporadic clashes by Jewish worshipers in front of what most view as Judaism's most sacred place after the Temple Mount.
Dressed in black hats and coats, mobs of young ultra-Orthodox men tossed eggs, water bottles and coffee cups at members of Women of the Wall as their leaders led a group of 100 men and women in prayer. Several women from the group wore white shawls and other religious ornaments, such as black tefillin boxes on their heads, traditionally used only by men at the site.
In anticipation of Friday's service, religious seminaries from all over the country bused in thousands of girls, who filled the fenced-off women's section of the Western Wall to prevent the activists from entering.
Instead, the Women of the Wall members held their service in the adjacent plaza as hundreds of Israeli riot police held back the ultra-Orthodox men, who blew whistles, shouted insults and chanted in an effort to drown out the prayer.
Police, whom the youths called "Nazis," arrested five men for disrupting the peace, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. As the women departed, some were pelted with rocks.
Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman, who on Friday was being protected by the same police who once arrested her performing a similar prayer service, predicted that it was only a matter of time before women won expanded rights at the holy site.
"This train is gone,'' said Hoffman, who has been pushing for religious equality at the Western Wall for 26 years. "Women are reading the Torah and praying out loud. This is going to happen. You are either leading it or you will be dragged by your hair."
Critics accused Hoffman's group of exploiting the issue for attention and ignoring centuries of tradition at the Western Wall.
"We don't have to take on the external signs of male prayer in order to be empowered and spiritual women,'' said Leah Aharoni, co-founder of a rival group calling itself Women For the Wall. "There is 1,700 years of tradition at this spot, and they should respect the majority. They just want to see and be seen, but this is a place for sacred prayer."
Until last month, female activists were often arrested at the holy site simply for wearing prayer shawls or reading from the Torah. Police said the arrests were justified by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that said religious activities at the Western Wall should comply with "local custom," which police based on Orthodox practices.
But on April 25, a Jerusalem judge ruled that the police had misinterpreted the Supreme Court ruling and overstepped their bounds in arresting women. He affirmed their right to continue their prayer service at the site.
Perhaps fearing the Supreme Court would uphold the decision, Israel's attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, said last week that he would not appeal the decision.
Government leaders are instead hoping to craft new regulations on the issue and find a compromise that all sides can accept.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky is leading a renewed effort to create a third prayer section -- located near an archaeological site known as Robinson's Arch just south of the current Western Wall plaza -- devoted to egalitarian services.
Both sides have expressed tentative support for the idea, though it remained unclear when such a section would be completed.
The compromise has been embraced by the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, who is calling on both sides to prevent the holy site from being used to divide Jews.
"People must look for common ground and unity,'' he said. "It is a place to express humility, not agendas."
He said he preferred maintaining the status quo, but did not think it was worth launching a political and legal battle against the Women of the Wall.
"I would recommend not going to holy war over it,'' he said.
Hoffman predicted that Friday's large ultra-Orthodox protest would backfire for religious leaders because it exposed thousands of young religious girls to ideas about gender equality that are seldom discussed in their sheltered communities.
"These young women recognize serious prayer when they see it,'' Hoffman said. "Some are going to go home and ask the most subversive Jewish question in the world: Why not me?"
Read the new Chaptzem article in the Country Yossi Family Magazine
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Thursday, May 09, 2013
Ex-yeshiva teacher faces sex assault charges in NJ
A former yeshiva teacher is on trial in New Jersey on charges he sexually abused a socially awkward boy whose family members, prosecutors say, were ostracized by their Orthodox Jewish community for taking the allegations to civil authorities.
Rabbi Yosef Kolko, 39, met the boy in 2007 at religious school-run summer camp in Lakewood where he was a counselor. The boy was 11 at the time, and authorities say abuse continued until early 2009.
Kolko has denied the charges, which include sexual assault and child endangerment.
The boy's former therapist testified Thursday that the boy told her in late 2008 he no longer needed help with his social skills because had had made a new friend, Rabbi Kolko.
"He's my best friend. He's the only one who understands me," Dr. Tsipora Koslowitz recounted the boy telling her.
Koslowitz said she told him that best friends were typically around the same age but he didn't understand.
At the end of a therapy session in February 2009, she said, the boy told her he had a secret. She said she had another patient coming in, so told him to tell her father. She said she thought it had something to do with bullying.
But that night, she said the boy's father called her to say it was about sexual abuse.
"He said it was Rabbi Kolko," she said.
The therapist did not report the allegation to authorities because for her, the allegation was only hearsay, she said.
The boy's father, also a rabbi, initially brought the allegation to a rabbinical court, or beit din. But unsatisfied with the way it was being handled, he took the case in mid-2009 to Ocean County prosecutors.
Prosecutors said the family was ostracized by the Orthodox Jewish community as a result. The family has since moved to Michigan.
A flier was circulated in Lakewood, a community with a large Orthodox Jewish community, saying the boy's father had made a mockery of the Torah and committed a "terrible deed" by taking the case to state prosecutors, the Asbury Park Press reported. The stance reflects beliefs among Orthodox Jews that conflict should be addressed within the community and the rabbinical court.
The boy took the witness stand Wednesday on the first day of the trial, testifying how he wanted to remain close to Kolko, even though his actions made him uncomfortable, because Kolko was his friend and he had no friends in school or camp.
The boy described a series of encounters with the rabbi, who would pick him up in his car, including molestation and oral sex and occurring in such locations as an empty classroom, a storage room, Kolko's car and the basement of a synagogue, the newspaper reported.
At one point, the boy testified, Kolko told him he was getting help and that if the boy talked to authorities it would ruin his career, the newspaper said.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews' Rockland rally to highlight dangers of Internet
Several thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews are expected to pack the Rockland Boulders baseball stadium Thursday night for a rally about the potential dangers of the Internet.
The event follows rallies last year — including a gathering of an estimated 60,000 people at Citi Field and a tennis stadium in Queens — that warned of the Internet's dangers to members of the cloistered Hasidic Jewish world. Others there promoted some uses of the Internet as positive.
The Viznitz rebbe — Mordachai Hager of Kaser — is to be one of Thursday's keynote speakers, members of the religious community have said on Twitter.
The rally is from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10.
Congregation Khal Torath Chaim, which organized the rally, has paid Ramapo $5,700 for use of Provident Bank Park, the home of the independent league Rockland Boulders baseball team, Ramapo Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Antosca said.
The fee covers use of the big screen and loudspeaker system. The contract says the organization must clean up afterward, and provide security and staffing for parking, she said.
The volunteer group Chaverim of Monsey will have people at the event to maintain order, users have said on Twitter. Ramapo police plan usual patrols in the area, off Route 45 by Firemen's Memorial and Pomona roads.
"I believe this is being characterized as a youth awareness day with young men older than 10 attending with adults," Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence told The Journal News.
"It's about the proper use of the Internet," he said. "It's a very positive event from the viewpoint of the community that doesn't usually utilize the ballpark for athletic events."
In many ultra-Orthodox communities, leading rabbis have prohibited their followers from using the Internet, though exceptions are made for businesses.
The religious leaders don't want their followers exposed to sex, pornography and modern relationships on the Internet, as well as news and other information about the outside world.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Chabadniks with a passion for fashion
Yosel Tiefenbrun looked in the mirror and he liked what he saw.
The 23-year-old Chabad rabbi and apprentice at Maurice Sedwell, a bespoke tailor's shop on London's Savile Row, was wearing a vintage double-breasted jacket with gold buttons, tasseled Barker shoes, a claret bow tie and matching handmade hat and square handkerchief. Then he ran out the door to attend the "Oscars of tailoring" -- the Golden Shears Award ceremony honoring the best in British fashion.
Several of his colleagues were in the running for a prize. They came back empty, but Tiefenbrun did not.
Nick Carvell, the online fashion editor at British GQ, snapped his picture and posted it the following day on the magazine's website, naming Tiefenbrun "best in show." Within days, the photograph of the hasidic rabbi and his natty attire was picked up by Jewish publications around the world.
"This is a very important message," Tiefenbrun told JTA. "You can be a [religious] man and still be successful in whatever you do if you are constantly working on yourself and keeping your Jewish life alive."
Hasidic Jews are well known for flouting the conventions of contemporary fashion, adhering to a strict dress code that originated in Eastern Europe and emphasizes modesty and piety. For men, the uniform mandates a black hat, coat and pants with a white shirt.
But in recent years, some haredi Orthodox women have sought to push the limits of tznius, or modesty, wearing more elaborate and, in some cases, slightly more revealing clothes. Now a group of young men affiliated with the Chabad hasidic movement are doing the same, in some cases breaking dramatically with their community's sartorial codes.
Last year, Rabbi Dovi Scheiner and his wife, Esty, a Chabad couple who run the "boutique" SoHo Synagogue in Lower Manhattan, were named among the Big Apple's 50 best dressers by Stylecaster, a fashion news website. The 36-year-old rabbi posed for the online outlet sitting on a velvet chair wearing a smart gray suit and laceless Converse sneakers.
Meanwhile, Mendy Sacho, a South African designer based in New York, has gained mainstream media attention for his innovative take on kapotas, the long black frocks worn by hasidic men. Sacho invigorates the traditionally drab coats by adding colorful linings and a sharper cut.
Rather than seeing their sartorial sensibilities as a departure from traditional dress, this new crop of fashionable hasidim tend to see being stylish and religiously observant as complementary.
"Look at the rebbe," said Sacho, referring to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late spiritual leader of Chabad. "When he was young, he was a very well-groomed man. The style he wore in the '50s in France is the style many Chabadniks are now adopting."
Photos of Schneerson from the period show him in dapper outfits that sharply contrast with the conservative look he adopted later as Chabad's leader.
Samuel Heilman, a Queens College sociologist and co-author of a biography of Schneerson, said the rebbe's followers have tended to overlook those years in Paris, partially because of the liberal taste in clothes he exhibited.
"[In his youth] he dressed in a much more cosmopolitan fashion, sometimes wearing a beret," Heilman said. "In the absence of a living rebbe, there are capacities for all these hasidim to project on the rebbe all sorts of things that would not be possible if he were alive."
Tiefenbrun, who served as a religious emissary in Singapore for two years before returning to London, wears suits that are much more ostentatious than the subtly augmented frocks sold by Sacho. On his Tumblr page, Tiefenbrun posts photos of himself in outfits not commonly seen on hasidic men. His style favors boldly colored shoes, trendy hats, bow ties, sharply cut jackets and pocket squares.
Tiefenbrun spends a day-and-a-half each week learning his craft at Maurice Sedwell's tailoring academy. The rest of the week he works the front desk, where he has waited on sheiks, soccer players and TV personalities.
One non-Jewish client, noticing his yarmulke, asked him for a blessing for his shirts. Another discovered they had a mutual acquaintance, the Chabad emissary in San Diego. But Tiefenbrun is careful to note that his clothing choices are his alone and not emblematic of any Chabad-specific trend.
"It's not like it's a Chabad thing, it's me," Tiefenbrun insisted. "I love art. I love quality clothing."
With its sprawling global network of emissaries working to inspire religious observance among secular Jews, it's perhaps little surprise that Chabadniks are practically alone within the hasidic world in pushing the boundaries, if gently, of their community's dress codes.
"One can make the case Chabad, more than any other hasidic group, is in direct contact with the non-hasidic world, so they have a real good feel for that world outside," Heilman said. "They have learned how to recruit there."
Sacho said there is little interest in his stylish kapotas from members of other hasidic communities. Chabad men are selling "a product called Judaism" to the wider world, he said, and that tradition impacts their choice of clothes.
"People will listen and appreciate you more if you dress well and look presentable," he said.
Within the confines of the hasidic community, however, it's often a different story. Young customers come in looking for one thing, but then their mother arrives and "chews my ear off," Sacho said.
But still, Sacho insists the style-conscious community is growing in the Chabad world and someday kapotas like his will be the norm.
"There are quite a few of us," Sacho said. "All my clients are younger. It's the future."
Critics charge city’s Broadway Triangle's two new private apartment buildings being unfairly filled with Hasidic families in Williamsburg
A new fight is erupting over a plan to develop private land at Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle, with critics citing two new buildings allegedly filled with Hasidic families.
Last year, a federal judge blocked the city's controversial plan to build housing on the 31-acre spot, finding it illegally favored Hasidim over blacks and Latinos.
But the injunction halting work at the site only appeared to apply to the 20% of city owned land in the area.
Meanwhile, private developers are building apartment buildings at the politically-charged site.
Two of those projects--70 Union Ave. and 246 Lynch St.--have been filled with Hasidim, critics charge.
"There were those who said that we were only speculating about what would happen with the city's rezoning but this is just proof that unless further action is taken this is going to happen over and over again," said Marty Needelman, a lawyer for the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition.
The group sent Hispanic and African American volunteers to apply for apartments at the two loications - and they were turned away, told there were no applications.
The group charges the Bloomberg administration's controversial zoning plan has allowed the building owners to cater to the dramatically-expanding Hasidic community.
"We want a rezoning that serves the entire community and does not continue patterns of racial segregation that the city has promoted and allowed," Needelman said.
In 2009, the Bloomberg administration tapped Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg to build about 1,800 apartments on the mostly desolate stretch near the Bedford Stuyvesant border.
Those two nonprofits have close ties to scandal-scarred Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who made the Broadway Triangle a pet project.
Lopez has long maintained close ties to a large branch of the Williamsburg's Hasidic community, a group that has staunchly supported him.
Needelman and other opponents vehemently objected that the plan for large apartments in low-rise buildings, and a special preference for residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint that didn't include nearby Bedford Stuyvesant, illegally favored Hasidic residents who often have large families and can't use elevators on the Sabbath.
In response, they suggested the city allow buildings higher than seven stories, where Jews could live on the lower floors.
But city officials have also dismissed the discrimination charges, saying all they did is change zoning rules to allow low-rise apartment buildings, just as they've done in other neighborhoods across the outer boroughs.
"The allegations about the City's plan are wildly off-base," said Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas. "The proposed development plan will help meet the community's affordable housing needs while preserving the neighborhood's mid-rise physical scale."
"If private landlords are acting in a discriminatory manner, as is alleged, that is not to be tolerated, and concerned citizens should make a report to the authorities responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination."
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Missing goat returned to Hudson Valley family
A goat that had been missing since Friday has been reunited with his New York owners.
Authorities determined that the Nigerian dwarf goat had been "kidnapped" by a group of teenagers.
The Ramapo Police Department didn't have a missing goat list, so they put the goat on its missing dog list.
It was returned to the owners, an Orthodox Jewish family in Monsey, on Saturday.
Montebello village Mayor Jeffrey Oppenheim told Newsday Westchester that the goat was found wandering along Kevin Drive Saturday morning.
He said it apparently was a pet for one of the owner's children.
The family is grateful to have the animal back and does not plan to file charges.
Brooklyn community moves no parking sign, bus driver fumes
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A parking battle is brewing in Brooklyn.
A bus driver is furious with members of the Hasidic community who have moved a city no-parking sign.
The sign on Franklin Avenue was moved just 30 feet from the bus stop.
It was done to make room for school buses — but has now made it next to impossible for the B-48 to pull into the stop.
The DOT says they are going to inspect it.
Monday, May 06, 2013
Sealed glasses against 'forbidden sights'
We're all familiar with the eye masks passengers wear on planes to help them sleep, but avoiding "forbidden sights" – such as films screened during flights – entails a new invention.
An ultra-Orthodox organization affiliated with the Breslov Hasidic movement is offering Jews flying to the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Uman sealed stickers that can be attached to the lenses of their glasses in order to guarantee "full eye protection."
A leaflet distributed in recent days among the Hasidim, on behalf of the Purity of the Camp organization, informs them of a step up in the struggle for "filmless flights."
Previously, the organization produced personal screens allowing each passenger to separate himself from his surroundings on the plane. Now it is recommending using a stricter method which involves sealing one's eyes.
The four-page leaflet, published on the Behadrei Haredim website, includes pictures of several Breslov rabbis wearing scarves restricting their eyesight or glasses with the "modesty stickers."
The leaflet explains that the rabbis pictured in the ads agreed to engage in "modeling" in order to "help one more person protect his eyes."
"This is how they traveled to Uman last year with a smile," says the caption to a picture showing the rabbis with shawls covering their faces. "This year we recommend travelling with the scarves too, but if you find it difficult – you can use the glasses instead."
According to the leaflet, the variety of solutions offered "to protect the eyes" were concocted after haredim who flew to New York were forced to tie their children's eyes with a handkerchief for more than 10 hours so that they would not be "contaminated by the ugliness of the films."
The leaflets also present illustrations of the accessories, as well as impressions and recommendations from Breslov Hasidim who have already used them.
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Hungary's prime minister slams anti-Semitism, but disappoints Jews
Prime Minister Viktor Orban strongly denounced growing anti-Semitism in Hungary on Sunday but stopped short of censuring the far-right Jobbik party his audience of world Jewish leaders most wanted him to scold.
Orban told the World Jewish Congress (WJC), which is holding its four-yearly assembly in Hungary to highlight its concern about rising hostility to Jews here and elsewhere in Europe, that anti-Semitism was "unacceptable and intolerable".
He recounted the steps his conservative government has taken to outlaw hate crimes and preserve the memory of the Holocaust, during which about half a million Hungarian Jews died.
But he did not respond to a call from WJC President Ronald Lauder, who in his opening remarks singled out Jobbik and told Orban "Hungarian Jews need you to take on these dark forces".
After Orban's speech, a WJC statement said: "The prime minister did not confront the true nature of the problem: the threat posed by the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular.
"We regret that Mr. Orban did not address any recent anti-Semitic or racist incidents in the country, nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between his government and the far-right fringe."
Also against Roma, European Union
Jobbik, which also vilifies Hungary's Roma minority and opposes the European Union and what it sees as other foreign influences, has 43 of the 386 seats in parliament, where Orban's Fidesz party has more than two-thirds of the seats.
One of Jobbik's deputies called in November for lists of prominent Jews to be drawn up to protect national security.
At a Jobbik rally on Saturday, he and other deputies charged that Jews were trying to buy up property to take over Hungary and accused Israel of running concentration camps in Gaza.
Addressing the Jewish leaders, Orban said: "We don't want Hungary to become a country of hate and anti-Semitism and we ask for your help and experience in helping us solve the problem."
He said Hungary's answer to increasing anti-Semitism here and elsewhere in Europe "is not to give up our religious and moral roots but to recall and reinforce the example of good Christians" in its laws defending the dignity of all citizens.
While the government has taken steps against anti-Semitism, critics say it does not draw a clear enough line against Jobbik, which competes with it for votes of nationalist Hungarians frustrated by the deepening economic crisis.
Elie Petit, a French Jewish student leader attending the assembly, said Orban "does not fight really anti-Semitism, racism and attacks on minorities. He is not strong enough to alter the actions of the Jobbik party."
Not clear enough
Jobbik is also popular among young Hungarians, especially university students in the liberal arts, sociologist Peter Tibor Nagy told Reuters. "That means it is not just a temporary phenomenon, it will last," he said.
Formed in 2003, Jobbik gained increasing influence as it gradually radicalised, vilifying Jews and the country's 700,000 Roma. Hungary has been among European states worst hit by the economic crisis and has struggled to exit recession.
Peter Feldmajer, head of the Hungarian Jewish community, hinted at the government's ambiguous stand in his speech when he said texts by "Hungarian Nazis are included in the national curriculum and thus polluting the souls of our students".
Hungary was once a centre of Jewish life in Europe and a quarter of Budapest's pre-Holocaust population was Jewish.
The country now has about 80,000-100,000 Jews and has seen a modest revival of Jewish life with renovated synagogues and new schools. New restaurants and bars have made the old ghetto area into one of the city's most popular night spots.